Here we go again. Does I-95 morph into Georgia’s “Trail of Tears” again?
Heading to Athens this morning for Mark Richt’s weekly news conference. I think you can make a case that this is the most important Georgia-Florida game during Richt’s administration, given the ramifications for both this season (the SEC East is still up for grabs) and the big picture (no elaboration necessary).
The Gators have lost three straight, but they had lost three straight last season when they defeated the Bulldogs in overtime 34-31. The Dogs have won five straight, but the fact the wins have comes over Coastal Carolina, Mississippi,Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt justifiably tempers the celebration (the four SEC opponents have a combined conference record of 1-15.)
I’m not ready to make a prediction yet. You’ll have to wait a couple of days. But here are a few reasons why either team can win, just in case you need something to ponder before voting in the who’s-going-to-win poll.
Why Georgia will win:
• 1) Better quarterback: Aaron Murray has not had a great season but he should be given the edge over John Brantley, who is expected to return from an injury after missing two and a half games and figures to be rusty.
• 2) Better defense: It might be difficult to tell because of the level of opponents, but the Dogs’ defense has improved this season (third in the SEC, sixth in the nation at 272.9 yards per game), and to a lesser degree in scoring (20.4 ranks sixth in the SEC, 27th in the nation).
• 3) Law of averages: Florida has won 18 of the last 21 meetings. Richt has lost three straight and eight of 10. But the Dogs came close last year. It has to turn at some point … doesn’t it?
Why Florida will win:
• 1) Weis vs. defense: The Florida offense has been a mess the last few weeks. But Charlie Weis is one of the best offensive coaches in the game and now he gets back his starting quarterback. Even if Brantley’s timing is off, Weis will put him in the right situations to succeed.
• 2) This could be a three-point game. So it seems appropriate to point out that the Florida kicker (Caleb Sturgis) is 15 for 16 and the Georgia kicker (Blair Walsh) is 12 for 20.
• 3) The Gators are not nearly as bad as they’ve been made out to be. They were waxed in consecutive games by Alabama and LSU, but those two are leveling everybody. In the last game, a 17-6 loss to Auburn, Florida was still missing Brantley. Can we really say they’re worse than Georgia? To date, the schools have had only one common opponent: Tennessee. The Dogs won 20-12; the Gators won 33-23. That’s a push. Florida has beaten Kentucky and lost to Auburn, which Georgia hasn’t played yet. Georgia has lost to South Carolina and beaten Vanderbilt, which Florida hasn’t played yet.
By Jeff Schultz